Agnes Ekelan, "I can only eat if I sell firewood"

Three words - poor, widowed and hungry - sum up the life of Agnes Ekelan, who lives in a village near Lodwar, the main town in arid Turkana region, north-western Kenya. As the country grapples with a food crisis, Ekelan and hundreds of thousands of other hunger-stricken Kenyans agonise daily about where the next meal will come from.



Ekelan does not know her exact age, but appears to be in her late 40s or early 50s. She spoke to IRIN on 7 February:



"I have six children; my husband died many years ago so I have been the sole provider for them. However, it has become harder and harder to feed them in the past year or so because there is simply no food.



"I trekked the 7km from our village of Naotin to Lodwar carrying a bundle of firewood and [reed] brooms for sale. Since my arrival yesterday, I have not eaten anything because I have not sold the firewood; I left the children at home without any food; I must sell the firewood today or I will not eat and I will have nothing to take home.



"For now, I am going to a market area where traders sell fish in the hope that a kind soul will give me the bony parts.



"In the past, it was easier to get food because traders from other parts of the country brought vegetables, fruit and grains such as maize and beans to sell here in Lodwar, but since the [post-election] violence last year, these products have become scarce, I guess because the traders stopped coming. Where you can find them, they are so costly, the little money I make from selling the firewood will only be enough for a little maize flour.



"I keep asking myself: If I don't sell this firewood, where will I get food? I don't even have the energy to make the return journey home. Surely the government or any rich person should come to our help; we are dying here in Lodwar."



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